Storyboarding your music videos

Are you ready to rock? YEAH! Now get ready to draw. Or at least sketch. It’s time to storyboard your music video.

Music videos are usually a blend of high energy, high concept, and lots of planning. The proportions of the first two can vary. For example, you don’t see Stevie Nicks doing cartwheels and backflips in the official video for Little Lies, but there was a lot of thought that went into creating the right look and feel for the piece. On the other hand, the energy is undeniable in U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday but it’s not exactly complex from a cinematographic standpoint.

The one thing you can’t underuse in music videos is storyboarding. The exception here is if you’re planning to do a live shoot of a group or performer in concert. In that case you do need pre-planning, such as how many cameras to use and where they’re going to be, plus how you’re going to get the best audio feed, but after that, it’s pretty much up to the performer.

When your group is ready to add music videos to its repertoire, give Hencar a call!

When your group is ready to add music videos to its repertoire, give Hencar a call!

A planned and scripted music video needs a lot of attention to detail. Are there going to be a lot of shots from multiple angles (and how many of them can be captured by different cameras at the same time)? How much time are you giving each member of the group? Will they each have single shots, and if so, how many? (This really has to be worked out with the group ahead of time. Face time is one of the biggest concerns for keeping group members happy.) Are you going to get a close-up of the singer on one particular line of the song? On several? What about the drummer? Are you going to use special techniques such as jib cameras? Don’t forget the post-production phase. Will you use special editing techniques such as time-lapse, fast-motion, zooming, and will you add special effects?

If you want a great example of multiple camera and editing effects, look no further than Krewella’s Somewhere to Run (WARNING: adult language). It’s a beautifully edited video. Think about how many of those shots you would have to pre-plan (hint: more than you think, because sometimes pre-planning a shot means planning to have it look casual).

Think of storyboarding as a preparatory dress rehearsal before everyone gets on stage for the real dress rehearsal. It gives the musicians and their support staff advance notice of what to expect. The production crew will also need advance notice so that they know where they’re supposed to be for each take (and there will be many takes. Many, many, many takes.)

The storyboard will help guide you through the rehearsals, too. And yes, if you plan a complex video, you’d better plan on rehearsals. The more moving parts the machine has, the easier it will be for something to go wrong. If the thing that goes wrong is that the bass player gets decapitated by the jib because he didn’t know it was coming towards him and jumped straight into its path, it’s not going to be very pleasant. Granted, it will get you and the band major points with the death metal community, but that’s not going to be much comfort during the liability lawsuit that follows. Especially if the gallery is filled with people from the death metal community.

If you really want to go whole hog with the storyboarding, you may need to use Photoshop or other editing software to help illustrate the exact look you’re going for in each shot. Or, plan on having supplementary examples from other videos that you can show so the band knows, as closely as possible, what the final video will look like.

Of course it’s possible to do a very basic video, and it needn’t look cheap or amateurish. Perhaps the musician has a sleek and polished persona and would be best served by a simple video. If you look at Sade’s Your Love is King closely, you’ll see it consists mostly of a series of slow camera pans and slow dissolves between shots (plus a few nifty card tricks). In this case, the storyboard would be fairly basic.

More than many other types of video, music videos put a lot of emphasis on the overall effect and emotion they generate. That’s why you need the clear vision storyboarding provides, so there’s no misunderstanding of what the final product will look like. No one wants to end up with this when they were really aiming for something like Lady Gaga’s Alejandro.

On second thought, maybe it’s a tossup.

Whichever look you choose, or anything in between (but if you choose to tilt towards Lady Gaga’s side, we’re willing to field the flaming calls from the Vatican in the name of artistic expression) you can count on Hencar to give you a clear vision of the final video well before the shoot begins. All thanks to the magic of storyboarding.